Toolstation Western League Podcast host, Ian Nockolds, is back with the latest round of interviews, this time welcoming Western League Fixture Secretary, George McCaffery, to discuss fixture disruption and the arrangements for Promotion and Relegation this season.

Ian Nockolds: Well, I'm delighted to welcome back to the Toolstation Western League Podcast our Fixtures Secretary, George McCaffery. George, thanks very much for taking the time to speak to us and we're obviously very conscious of the current fixture situation, not least because of the weather that we've been having. Can you give us an overview on where we are with our league fixtures at the moment.

George McCaffery: Happy New Year to one and all. And thank you for the opportunity of coming on Ian, once again. In the Premier Division now, we've played about 55% of our games. We've got clubs who have completed 17 games, some that have completed 21 games out of a total of 34. So we've still got 137 games to get in. At the moment we're on schedule, with the first division, where we've played nearly 60% of games. But we still got 190 games to get in. And there we've got clubs who've played 20 to 26 games, out of 42. So they've got a lot more games to get in. This weekend was a good example that, you know, we lost a few games, but congratulations to the clubs that got the games on. Those games are in the process now we've been rescheduled, liaising with the clubs and coming up with a new date that's suitable.

Ian Nockolds: So if we think back over the last few seasons, I think all of us recognise that the weather in January and February can be really difficult and actually any leeway that some pitches may have will be eroded as we get more rain or more frost. From your perspective, when you look back at you know the seasons that you've been doing this, what's the doomsday scenario?

George McCaffery: I remember looking just before Christmas, at last year's picture compared to this years and we had lost about 56 games this year, halfway through December, and previous years, it was in the 30s. So you know, we have lost a lot more games. And as a result of that, referring again to this weekend, we're now scheduling some clubs to the end of February on a midweek, which means we've only got March and April mid weeks left, which is only about six or seven midweeks. So if we lose six or seven more games, the potential is, then we're going to Tuesday, Thursday slots. Are we there? No, we're not there yet. But as you say, the doomsday scenario is very much the potential. And I have to say congratulations, the club will know who they are, when they realized their game was going to be postponed. They looked at alternate venues. They approached GFA for instance, they have slots at midday and evening, and they were able to provisionally book the evening game, but the away team objected. And so there's no way I can enforce that, we have to go with the three o'clock kickoff unless both teams agree. But the problem with that is that if you don't start taking these alternate options, then that doomsday scenario is going to get a lot closer. So whilst you may not like playing on a Saturday evening at 5:30. Do you like playing on a Thursday, having played on a Tuesday and then playing on the Saturday. So you know, we need to be aware that if clubs are going to this effort of rearranging alternate venues then we need to be positive about it.

One of the big worries over the last couple of seasons has been the management of long distance travel for clubs, particularly obviously in our Premier Division. So I guess as the weather worsens, and more games are lost, that's got to be top of your mind at the moment.

Very topical, because we're there. We already have three teams in the Premier Division that have no more spare Saturdays. I was able to put the fixtures in place where we had four spare Saturdays, for postponements, as a result of FA Cup, FA Vase runs or the weather. And so we've got three clubs. One of those was postponed at the weekend, which means that the away club will now have to travel to them midweek and I think that's 124 miles. So it's not the longest journey, but it's one of the longer ones. Not ideal, but that's going to happen more and more as I don't have the ability to move local games from a Saturday to get these long distance ones in. But as I say it's just that one, the other games were played. Fortunately, we still have three teams in the FA Vase and so if they're successful this Saturday, there's another three games that are gonna get postponed and have to be moved. Only one of those doesn't have any spare Saturdays. So whoever they're due to play in February will have to go to a midweek. But it's not a long distance one. So I'm always monitoring that ahead and letting the clubs know, because my role I do the fixtures, simple as that. But it's not as simple as that. It's, it's talking to the clubs, and communicating with them, and then telling me that, oh, "we've got some big sponsors coming in, we've got to be at home that day, we can't afford to move", if I know that, then I can, you know, put that into the equation. But if I don't know it, I may end up moving them to an away game to get a long distance one in. And so it is important the clubs tell me what their concerns are and what their ambitions are. And we do that working together the majority of the time, but at the end of the day, there are games like the one I've just mentioned that I've got to move to a midweek. The away team have got a few spare Saturdays at the moment. So what I might do is move it to a midweek, where they don't play on the Saturday, just to alleviate the problem, but it doesn't really alleviate the problem of people having to take time off work to get to the away club, you know, on a midweek evening.

This interview is being serialised in The Journal. The whole interview can be heard here.